Anger as Scottish Government overturns rejected housing plan

The Aberdour plans have caused a great deal of controversy
The Aberdour plans have caused a great deal of controversy

A controversial housing application for Aberdour has been approved by the Scottish Government after it was rejected twice by Fife Council.

Cala Homes had submitted an application to build 85 homes in the small village, but was rejected by Fife Councillors in July 2018.

The developers appealed the initial decision at the Fife Planning Review, but it was also rejected due to not fitting in with the FIFEPlan.

Steven Cooper, planning manager at CALA Homes (East), said: “We are delighted that the Reporter has endorsed the recommendation of the Council’s officials who recommended that permission should have been granted in July last year.

“Council officers have consistently supported the principle of development on this site through Local Plan preparation and the planning application process. The Reporter’s balanced consideration of the proposal re-affirms the suitability of the site and the proposal.

“The Reporter recognised the severity of the housing shortfall in Fife, and this outcome is great news for people who wish to live in Aberdour and those who are currently on housing waiting lists in the area. We have already received a number of calls from interested parties who are keen to secure a new home in Aberdour.”

However, Councillor David Barratt, convener of the planning review, expressed frustration at the decision.

He said: “Councillor McGarry and I are both shocked and disappointed by the decision of the Reporter to allow the appeal by Cala Homes despite the wishes of the community and the unanimous refusal of it by the West Planning Committee.

“The Reporter took the view that the only important issue was a shortfall in the housing land supply (identified in SESPlan 1) and gave little credence to any other issues.

“It is extremely frustrating that a failure to progress SESPlan2 means that a non-existent under supply of housing land has been used to justify the disregard for FifePlan, local councillors and the local community.”

Mr Barratt added: “The decision comes in the context of successive large scale planning applications being refused and repeat applications being made. It has been described as a war of attrition and today, the community lost. It is a bitterly disappointing defeat and perfect example for planning reform.

“I have already written to constituency MSP Annabelle Ewing and regional MSP Mark Ruskell. The application site had already been looked at and rejected by the reporter in consideration of the local development plan. The site was considered and rejected on sound planning grounds by the West Fife Planning Committee.

“I don’t believe it is right that an unelected and unaccountable civil servant should be allowed to overturn a decision in this way. There are many proposals for planning reforms.  One thing I’d like to see is a limit on the right of appeal in certain instances.

“Where a site has been considered and rejected through development of the local development plan, and where that rejection has been accepted at reporter level, is the right of appeal justified? If so, what is the point to the local plan process?”